Preview: The French Open Mens Final
The day every tennis fan has been waiting for has arrived.
We saw Simona Halep lift the women's trophy yesterday. The question is: will it be Rafael Nadal’s 11th french open and 17th grand slam victory, or Dominic Thiems’ first ever grand slam title?
We will find out later today.
Before the final takes place, I want to give you a bit of a preview of both players, how they got here and of course; my prediction.
How They Got Here
Rafael Nadal had a very easy first match. He was supposed to play Alexandr Dolgopolov, but he pulled out last minute allowing lucky loser; Simone Bolelli to take his place. In Nadal style, he struggled in the first round match, despite being able to close it out in straight sets.
He then faced Guido Pella in the second round and impressed with another straight set victory. This was then matched in the third round against french favourite and 27th seed; Richard Gasquet. His fourth round was a similar story against Maximilian Marter. Another straight set win, and into the quarter-finals.
His quarter-final match was his most difficult of the tournament. He came out, and couldn’t find his best tennis against 11th seed; Diego Schwartzman. He dropped the first set, and then the heavens opened, and play was suspended. He had to return the next day to finish off the match. He came out and played like the Nadal we all love, and finished the match in four sets. Some were expecting his semi-final match against Juan Martin Del Potro to be a long one, but it wasn’t He won this 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 securing a place in the final against Dominic Thiem.
Dominic Thiem faced Ilya Ivashka in his first round match and secured an easy straight set win. He then faced Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round, but dropped a set. The same happened in his third round encounter with Matteo Berrettini and fourth round encounter with 19th seed; Kei Nishikori. He was impressive in both matches, and continued this good run of form against 2nd seed; Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
Thiems’ semi-final was against the surprisingly in-form and performer of the tournament; Marco Cecchinato. He was close to losing a set in this match, but his strong tennis got him through in straight sets, and into the final against Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have played each other nine times, with Nadal winning 6 of those meetings. All of their meetings have been on clay, with the most recent being in Madrid earlier this year where Thiem recording an impressive straight set win over Nadal. They also played in Monaco this year, with Nadal winning in straight sets.
As we all know, Rafael Nadal plays with an enormous amount of topspin on his forehand, and his backhand. He also hits his serve with a lot of spin, and power; a combination that earns him an impressive amount of points on clay. He is an aggressive down-the-line, and passing-shot player, with the ability to defend like no other.
For Dominic Thiem to come into this match with a fighting chance, he needs to force Nadal around the court, break up his rhythm, hit as many first serves as he possibly can and end points quickly.
Dominic Thiem has a similar playing style to Roger Federer with a one-handed backhand, and a strong forehand to match. He sounds like Djokovic on court, and displays Murray-like emotion. He tends to play well behind the baseline, and relies on spin and power to become an offensive player.
Some say that Thiem is well-equipped to take out Rafael Nadal, and win the french open but just because he has beaten him on clay, it’s not the same. The french open is best of five (not three) and you’re playing Nadal on a court where he has won the title 10 times. Nadal thrives in the heat, both temperature and pressure.
Do I think Thiem could do it? Possibly. Am I willing to bet on this? Absolutely not.
Nadal has won 92% of the 413 matches he’s ever played on clay, which is by far the best winning percentage by any player on any surface in the Open Era of men’s tennis, and his 51 clay-court titles are the most of all time.
Rafael Nadal has been in amazing form throughout the tournament and when he is playing like this, even the likes of Roger Federer can’t stop him on clay. I think Thiem will put up a fight, but I think Nadal will ultimately take the match, title and another piece of history with him today in a four set victory.